How Long Will Records Appear on a Background Check?

Posted: July 10, 2020

How long can records be reported on my background check?

One of the most common questions that we receive as a CRA is how long certain types of information will appear on a background check. Great question. Let’s dig through some of the common misconceptions that are out there on this topic and get to the truth.

There are many laws that apply to background checks and the reporting of criminal record information so it can often be very difficult to keep it all straight. While many things come into play, including state and local laws and regulations, according to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), records that have resulted in a conviction may be reported indefinitely, while records that did not result in a conviction (such as arrests only), may only be reported for seven years.

Negative information can only be reported for seven years.

The FCRA states that adverse information that did not result in a conviction may only be reported for a seven-year period. This includes information such as dismissals, arrests only, civil judgments, etc.; however, this federal law does allow conviction information to be reported for an indefinite amount of time.  While this is the law at the national level, there are state laws that must also be considered that dictate for how long certain information may be reported. For example, if you or your potential Employer live in California, non-convictions may not be reported, and pending cases, open warrants, and convictions may only be reported for seven years. This time period is measured from the earliest date on record, usually the offense date or the file date.

My court case is pending, and I have not been convicted. This charge cannot appear on my background check.


Unless there is a state law that prohibits the reporting of pending records, the FCRA states that this information may legally be reported for a seven-year period as it counts as adverse information that did not result in a conviction.

My bankruptcy was filed seven years ago so it should not appear on my background check.

No one ever said the FCRA was black and white! While it is true that the FCRA states that adverse information that did not result in a conviction is limited to seven years, section 605(a) of the FCRA states that bankruptcy information may be reported for 10 years from the file or dismissal date.

Only the state of residence matters when applying state laws to background check reporting.

When determining which state laws to apply to background check reporting, CRA’s should consider the following: 1) location of Employer, 2) location of Candidate, and 3) State of Record. All three of these locations are equally important and should be considered when determining which state laws may apply. When multiple states come into play, the state with the strictest employment screening laws are applied. For states with no background check laws, only the FCRA is followed.

If you have any questions about what is included on your background check, Info Cubic’s Client Service Ninjas are here to help. Our staff members maintain FCRA-Certification through the Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA) so are well-equipped to help you with any questions or concerns you may have.

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